WhatsApp says it will make changes to the way its messaging system works in an effort to curb the spread of fake news around the coronavirus.
The group said in a statement on Tuesday (7 April), that this will include limitations on the number of times that a message can be forwarded to other contacts.
“Last year we introduced users to the concept of messages that have been forwarded many times,” it said.
“These messages are labelled with double arrows to indicate they did not originate from a close contact. In effect, these messages are less personal compared to typical messages sent on WhatsApp. We are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time.”
WhatsApp noted that it has previously set limits on forwarded messages to constrain virality, which led to a 25% decrease in message forwards globally at the time.
It said that while the forwarding of messages is not ‘bad’ it has seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users said can feel ‘overwhelming’ and can contribute to the spread of misinformation.
“We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation,” it said.
“In addition to this change, we are working directly with NGOs and governments, including the World Health Organization and over 20 national health ministries, to help connect people with accurate information.
“Together these trusted authorities have sent hundreds of millions of messages directly to people requesting information and advice,” WhatsApp said.